Sep. 9, 1939 Kalamazoo Kalamazoo County Michigan, USA
ELLA ACRE was born the daughter of EDWARD and GRACE ACRE in Elsie, a village within the township of Duplain in central Michigan. She was the first of their five children. ELLA's exact birth date has been listed as both July 7 (in various records) and July 20 (as of her newspaper obituary) of 1894. In early childhood ELLA united with the Church of Christ in Duplain and remained a devoted Christian for the rest of her life. After graduation from Clinton County schools, ELLA taught for a number of years in Michigan. (Decades later, her daughter, MARJORIE, would follow the same career path in the same state.) On June 23, 1917, ELLA married JOHN D. WITHROW, a purchasing agent at Motor Wheel Corporation in Lansing and the couple took up residence at 511 S. Hosner in the same city. (In 1922 they moved to 812 Johnson Avenue.) The newly married ELLA found new employment as a bookkeeper. Aside from MARJORIE, who was born in 1918, the couple also had a son, CARL, in 1921. Due to an underdeveloped cranium, he died only eight days after his birth. CARL's birth and death as JOHN's "defective" male heir sparked JOHN to leave ELLA and seek a different mate.
The "official" reason, as put down in court records, was because ELLA became "very jealous in nature" and "verbally and physically abused him" (due to JOHN's wandering ways). She was officially "adjudged insane" and on August 15, 1922 an order was issued for her commitment within the Michigan State Hospital for the Insane in Kalamazoo. Thirteen months later, on September 17, 1923, Ella was declared "of restored soundness of mind."
ELLA admitted striking back at JOHN when "deliberately or unreasonably provoked" but denied being jealous or making her husband's life miserable because of the "attentions of other women." She claimed counter cruelty and extreme abuse by JOHN. According to ELLA, her husband had a violent temper and "forced her down on sharp objects."
MABELLE PERSON of Lansing was appointed ELLA's guardian.
During the divorce proceedings, it was claimed that ELLA had been "adjudged insane" on December 6, 1913 and sent to the psychopathic ward at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. ELLA denied that, explaining that she'd been sent to Ann Arbor for treatment of spinal meningitis and had been released fully recovered.
Separation was granted on November 29, 1921 and the divorce granted on April 28, 1922. ELLA won custody of MARJORIE and of JOHN's estate. However, in 1924, JOHN sued for custody of MARJORIE and possession of his estate and won back both. At the time, JOHN's salary was $140 per month. On Thanksgiving Day, 1925, JOHN then married ATHOL BEADLE, who didn't want MARJORIE (who looked just like her mother) around as a constant reminder of JOHN's first marriage. JOHN and his new wife had MARJORIE placed in a foster home -- a farm, actually -- outside of Lansing run by a couple known as the Harts (first names unknown). MARJORIE apparently remained there until she entered college. ATHOL, in the meantime, presented JOHN with a "nondefective" male heir, JOHN JR. (known as JACK).
In 1927 ELLA entered the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, which was part of Kalamazoo State Hospital on Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo. She stayed there for 12 years, two months and two days -- until her death of "acute cardiac failure and aspiration pneumonia (10 hours)" with a "contributing catatonic stupor (10 hours)" on September 9, 1939. But was that true? Reportedly, her autopsy revealed feathers in Ella's throat. Had she been suffocated with a pillow? There was no follow-up investigation -- so we'll never know if it's true that ELLA ACRE WITHROW was murdered.
ELLA – whose dreams of married life as a wife and mother had collapsed after only four years and ended after less than five -- was only 45 years old.
According to her obituary published in the Clinton Country Republican on September 14, 1939, ELLA's funeral services were conducted by the Rev. L.A. FISHER (1879-1954), pastor of the Duplain Church of Christ, at the Carter Funeral Home in Elsie on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12. In attendance was her daughter, MARJORIE (who has just graduated from college with a teaching degree), her father EDWARD ACRE, one sister, MURIEL (married last name unknown) of Detroit, Ella's two brothers ORRIN of Duplain and WARD of Detroit, along with other relatives and friends. RUSSELL ASH (1886-1956) of Duplain sang at ELLA's funeral, as he would five years later at the funeral of her father, EDWARD. ELLA was laid to rest next to her sister IVAH, who'd died at 21 during the 1918 flu pandemic) and their mother, GRACE, who'd died in 1926, in Elsie's Riverside Cemetery. ELLA's father, EDWARD joined his wife and daughters in the family plot in 1944.
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Your daughter, Marjorie, spent the rest of her life looking for you. I'm your grandson and I continued the search. Finally, 71 years after you entered Heaven, I have found your resting place -- thanks to findagrave. You're not forgotten, Grandm...(Read more) -
Gary Theroux Added: Aug. 4, 2010